Toppled Colston Statue Lifted from Harbour, Will Be Sent to Museum

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Bristol City Council via Twitter

The statue of an English Restoration era merchant linked to the slave trade which was pulled from its plinth and rolled into the harbour has been lifted out of the water as it posed a hazard to shipping, the city council said.

A Victorian-era bronze of Edward Colston, who made part of his 17th- and 18th-century fortune from slavery, was pulled down on Sunday, prompting protesters attending the demonstration to jump up and down on the fallen statue of the long-dead man in a frenzy of wild excitement.

The removal of the statue has been a persistent topic of local politics in Bristol for decades, but never achieved sufficient interest even for the city’s Labour-controlled council to remove it. Indeed, a snap poll conducted by YouGov immediately after the destruction of the memorial found just 13 per cent agreed with the mob-handed approach to street justice. Forty per cent, however, agreed that the statue should have been removed, but not by protesters with ropes.

The figure has now been lifted from Bristol’s historic harbour by the council, who said on Thursday that it presented a hazard to navigation in the working waters. While the message from the council said the bronze would become “part of our museum’s collection”, as with the vast majority of artefacts held by many UK museums, this will likely mean being put into storage, not on display.

The recovery took place in the early hours of Thursday morning to avoid attention and a possible counter-protest, the council saying they “didn’t want anybody to get hurt if there was a crowd there or anyone looking”. Responses to the recovery on social media were generally poor, with several messages insisting the statue should have stayed in the water, a grounding hazard to ships using the harbour or not.

British government broadcaster the BBC reported the remarks of an official from the city archives, who said: “We’ve had a diver down there who attached the ropes to crane it out of the water and take it away… The ropes that were tied around him, the spray paint added to him, is still there so we’ll keep him like that.”

The removal of Colston — and the fact Bristol’s police were ordered back from preventing lawlessness by the city’s chief of police, who subsequently said the city should be proud over the vandalism — has led to a surge in attempts over the rest of the country to pull down a shopping list of other statues. Some of those targeted have clearly links to slavery, a practice banned and that ban enforced over other nations by the British empire 200 years ago, but others do not.

In Leeds, a statue of former British monarch Queen Victoria was vandalised with “BLM” messages including “whore”, “slag”, and “slave owner”, despite there being no evidence for any of those claims.

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